Tulo, Donaldson returns slightly delayed

Shortstop could be back Friday, earliest third baseman will play is next week

Tulo, Donaldson returns slightly delayed

ATLANTA -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons admitted he was overly optimistic earlier this week when he gave medical updates on Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson. Both players will be out a little longer than expected.

Gibbons stressed that neither player suffered any kind of setback and that he simply "jumped the gun" when hypothesizing about their return. Tulowitzki originally was scheduled to return Thursday in Atlanta and Gibbons hoped to have Donaldson back by this weekend, but neither scenario is going to take place.

Tulowitzki still needs to play in at least one more rehab game, so the earliest he will return is Friday in Baltimore. Donaldson won't be back in the lineup until at least next week, but a possible rehab schedule will have to be established first.

"We thought maybe Tulo, but he may need a couple of more days," Gibbons said when asked if any of his injured players would be returning Thursday. "We just figured he probably needs a couple of more."

One of the issues with Tulowitzki is that his rehab assignment got off to a delayed start. He was supposed to play for Class A Advanded Dunedin on Saturday, but he was scratched from the lineup because of the wet conditions following a day of heavy rain. Dunedin then had an off-day on Sunday, which meant Tulowitzki did not begin his rehab until Monday.

Tulowitzki got the start at shortstop in his first game back and then started at designated hitter the following day. Following a pair of consecutive working days, the Blue Jays wanted to give him a break on Wednesday, so he'll play at least one more rehab game on Thursday. If Tulowitzki needs another day after that, it would push his return to either Saturday or Sunday in Baltimore.

Donaldson, meanwhile, has yet to progress to the point where he can begin a rehab assignment. There was some internal hope that might happen this week, with the possibility of returning against the Orioles, but he won't be back until at least next week's series in Milwaukee, which begins Tuesday, and possibly not until the Blue Jays return home on May 26.

"I might have jumped the gun the other day, saying he'd be here this weekend," Gibbons said. "I probably got a little excited."

Smoak and Morales to split time

The Blue Jays opened a three-city, seven-game road trip on Wednesday afternoon, which includes a pair of stops to National League ballparks. That means Toronto will be without a designated hitter for four of those games and the plan is for Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak to split time at first base.

Smoak got the start at first on Wednesday night in Atlanta and Morales will start there on Thursday. That configuration will then be used again next week when the Blue Jays open a two-game series in Milwaukee.

"We'll play them both one game and then we'll do the same in Milwaukee so we keep them both playing," Gibbons said.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.